A conversations with Hibob the vendor behind Bob HRMEarlier this year, Enterprise Times spoke to Ze’ev Rozov, COO of Hibob, the company behind Bob, a modern HR platform that powers productivity, engagement and retention. Rozov has headed teams and companies worldwide and led companies in Germany, Israel, the UK and the US. As COO at Hibob, he looks after the partnership programmes and aspects of strategy, including M&A and internal collaboration.

Hibob has around 750 people globally, with offices in Tel Aviv, London, New York, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Sydney, and Berlin. The company has doubled in the last 12 months and has over 3,000 customers.

On the future

Ze’ev Rozov, COO of Hibob
Ze’ev Rozov, COO of Hibob

I asked Rozov what he aims to achieve in 2023.

“There are a few areas that we’re focusing on as a business. One is to help our 1,000s of existing customers deal with the overall uncertainty in the market. We all know that the markets are harder to predict now than previously. We believe that we offer a platform and infrastructure that helps deal with a lot of the uncertainty. It has to do with optimising processes so that people can be more efficient.

“It has to do with improving the way they go through planning. We’ve been launching more and more capabilities that look at process management and how to bring that intelligence into workforce planning. We’re continuing to expand our footprint and expect to bring hundreds of new customers on board. (Then) to continue to build on our business, our culture and invest in all people.”

On the gig economy

Hibob focuses on the full-term employment market. However, customers use Hibob to onboard any, including part-time staff, according to Rozov. While it does not yet focus on the Gig Economy, Rozov shared some views about the next generation of the workforce.

“We published some research a few months ago about Gen Z’s in the tech world. A significant number of Gen Z’s were saying, ‘having stability and knowing that the business we’re in has the resources to continue to employ us.’ was as important to them as ever. The big challenge that came through for so many Gen Z’s, their initial interaction in the workspace, has been around the pandemic, working remotely.”

For organisations, Rozov highlighted the following questions in this ever-changing environment.

“How do you build a culture? How do you train? How do you help skilling up? That’s been a lot of the challenge.

“We’re hearing more and more from companies thinking about, how do we help, either those employees or the group of people who manage teams for the first time and really supporting them through those processes.

“For me, I am a veteran of several of these uncertainties. From personal experience, I moved to San Francisco in February 2000. It was impossible to find anywhere to live. I remember a year later, the landlord coming in saying ‘by how much do I need to reduce rent for you to stay because I’d have to continue to pay the tax on the flat,’ so they just wanted me to stay.

“For most people, especially people that are under 30, they have not experienced a situation other than the market going up. So really thinking through, how do you help your people? If you’re an international business, the current situation is different in the UK than in the Netherlands, Germany, the US, Eastern Europe, and so many different places.

“How do you keep that culture? How do you keep that training? How do you make it clear that you understand the challenges your people are seeing, and at the same time, put in the processes that help you to operate better as a business? Those are many of the questions we’re hearing from business leaders.

On hybrid working

The approach to hybrid working seems to be constantly evolving. How does the platform help organisations deal with that volatility?

“It’s interesting because I recently talked with a senior executive at a different company. I said the one thing we’ve all learned as senior executives is how much we don’t know. We need to be a little more humble about our predictions. If you look over the last few years, probably except for Bill Gates,  no one was forecasting COVID coming around. Then the great resignation, economic growth and war in Ukraine, and the increase in interest rates.

“So many things changed that my view is, you want to have an infrastructure that gives you the flexibility to adapt to the processes you need. The same thing in terms of hybrid, so that you might change it so you’re onboarding employees in a different way. You need to communicate with them in different ways. You might want to have different processes for evaluating them, sharing information, and building your culture.

“Someone asked me that recently, and I said, as COO, when I now look at investments, I’m looking at systems that will provide me with the ability to adapt because I just need to be more aware that I cannot forecast where I’m going to be a year or two years down the road, as I thought I could five years ago. That’s a lot of where our investment is. It isn’t just providing the ability to easily configure and customise, based on the changes that will be coming up.”

On the competitive market

What is the target market for HiBob?

We focus first and foremost, on modern businesses. These are the businesses that are putting people first. The majority of our customers tend to have more than one location. They might be in England but might also have an office in Europe, the US, Asia, or elsewhere. In terms of size, they’ll probably be between a few 100 to a few 1000 employees. There are some edge cases, but that’s where we see the highest volume.”

What differentiates HiBob, from the competition?

“First of all, we’re really nice. There are a few things that we’ve seen and heard from customers. One is the quick time to value. I was reading your piece about Workday, fantastic recent reports, but we also know from Workday customers that it can take a very long time until you get value from the system. Right now, we’re hearing from more and more of our customers that time to value is important.

“The other thing that we believe, particularly in this space, is if you put in a system that people don’t use, it’s useless. We were talking about some of the people that are entering the workspace. They expect a completely different interface and engagement level with the platform than we were willing to put up with for many years ourselves. A big aspect of what we do is we believe that if you can become the system that people use and have that level of engagement, you get the insights you want as managers to make better decisions.

“You can impact your culture, put better processes in place, and so forth. It’s really about that engagement and time to value, are the key areas that we focus on.”

What are your routes to market, and who are the partners you work with?

“Currently, the majority of our business is direct. We’ve got direct sales teams across the world. We are in the process of building out a partner organisation. That’s going to be coming up this year. It’s a big area of growth for us, both the implementation and the consultants in the field.”

With thousands of customers but without a mature channel partner network, the implication is your software is easy to implement, and adoption is quick.

“Yes, that’s very much where we’ve been. We’ve been very much focused on building the technology first, getting to this level. Now as we’re looking at the next level of growth, it’s the right time for us to invest in the channel partnerships.”

On expansion

Hibob currently supports at least 13 languages. It recently launched in Germany. Were there any challenges?

“Germany is such an interesting market for us. One, in Germany the majority of the economy is what we call midsize businesses. That’s the core of the German industry. It may sound slightly counterintuitive, but they’ve got Personio, who has been investing a lot in educating small businesses about the value of HR.

“We can then go to companies that might have 100 employees, and work with Personio, but then recognise the limitations of that platform. They then say for the next stage of growth, they need something far more robust and capable. That’s been a brilliant growth channel for us.”

On M&A

Do you have any plans for acquisition?

“We’re actively looking. That’s part of what I’m leading. As part of the team, we believe that we’ve reached a certain level of scale and that adding more capabilities to the system makes a lot of sense. We did an acquisition last year, where we acquired a company with some LMS capabilities out of Lisbon. We’re actively looking for more places that can enhance our platform.”

What about LATAM? Portugal could be a good launchpad for expansion, notably into Brazil.

“Definitely it is. We have customers in LATAM. We signed a new customer in Chile yesterday. We’re unlikely to open a local office in LATAM in 23. Returning to the era of uncertainty, it’s the same level of uncertainty we operate in. We are focused on growing the markets we’re active in right now, Germany, but our goals are global. We have customers in about 75 countries right now and will continue to grow into more and more markets, LATAM, other parts of Europe, Asia, and so forth. No doubt about that.”

On challenges

What are your challenges?

“I think the biggest challenge right now is the level of uncertainty in the market, particularly in the UK. Hopefully, we’ve got a new protocol with Brexit and no big blow-up with the EU, which wouldn’t help anyone. Having a bit more certainty will help all businesses feel comfortable in their decision making.

“Then just being able to help customers through their transformation. Since I started working 30 years ago, everybody has talked about how people are important. But, there was a big difference in how people spoke about it and what they did. The last few years, we’ve seen a significant shift from just the talk to understanding what it is and continuing to help our customers through those journeys.”

The book question

What was the latest book you read? What was your take out from it?

“The last book I just finished reading was called “What is History, Now?” (by Suzannah Lipscomb and Helen Carr, Amazon Aus, UK, US). I’m a big fan of history. It was talking about revisiting the way we look at history. The main thing about it is that history keeps changing because what is important for us as people change. So the emphasis we give is on different aspects of the world. Fifty years ago, no one was looking that much about history related to gender or diversity, and now that’s what we’re looking for because that’s what we care about as a society.

“The original was written by E.H. Carr (What is History?), and then his great-granddaughter and Professor Lipscomb wrote a new book revisiting the subject. It’s written as a rebuff of what he wrote 50 years ago.”


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